Page last updated at 11:29 GMT, Friday, 14 May 2010 12:29 UK

Concerns over Zimbabwe's 'Noah's Ark gift' to N Korea

Elephant in Zimbabwe. File photo
The Hwange National Park is one of Zimbabwe's top tourist attactions

Wild animals reportedly caught in Zimbabwe and intended as a gift to North Korea may not survive in the Asian country, conservationists say.

"We're very concerned," Johny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told the BBC.

He said the habitat may not be suitable for baby elephants, rhinos and other animals which he believed would be secretly flown in pairs to North Korea.

Zimbabwe's state parks officials have not publicly commented on the issue.

North Korea has long been a close ally of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

Modern-day 'Noah's Ark'

Mr Rodrigues told the BBC he believed that wild animals - such as baby elephants, giraffes, rhinos and zebras - were being secretly caught in pairs in the past two months in the Hwange National Park, western Zimbabwe.

He said his organisation was alerted by one of the wardens in the park, who was concerned about the operation.

Mr Rodrigues also said witnesses had seen state parks vehicles towing cages in the area and the runway of the local airport being extended.

It is believed the animals are being kept in quarantine before being sent to North Korea.

"It's such a secretive thing," Mr Rodrigues said.

He said he believed that the airlift to the Communist state would go ahead after "a presidential decree", which would guarantee that "no-one can touch" the secret cargo.

Mr Rodrigues added that his organisation was very concerned that some of the wild animals would not survive in the new environment in North Korea.

"We don't know if the habitat is good enough for animals. They are not used to it."

There are particular concerns that the two baby elephants may not survive the airlift separated from their mothers.

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Los Angeles Times Zimbabwe plan to send baby elephants to North Korea raises alarm - 27 hrs ago
Yahoo! UK and Ireland Child survivor of Libyan plane crash told parents dead - 38 hrs ago
Sydney Morning Herald Mugabe's ark: zebras, giraffes and baby elephants for Kim Jong-il - 44 hrs ago Blog details Libya plane crash survivor's safari with family - 47 hrs ago
South Africa MercuryBid to stop Zim animals' move to N Korea - 53 hrs ago
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